Science improves wine-making

Science improves wine-making

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EASTON -- The story of the region’s burgeoning wine industry added a new chapter with the first wine to come out of Victory View Vineyards.

This is an estate winery, meaning all its wine is made from grapes grown on the winery property, and is the latest of several to open in the region in recent years, thanks to advances in grape science that resulted in new varieties capable of thriving in colder weather.

Gerry Barnhart, co-owner of Victory View, just added 180 new vines to the vineyard off Route 40. He took some time to give a tour of the winery, which, as the name suggests, lies atop a knoll that overlooks the Hudson River and Saratoga National Historical Park.

“You’ve really got to like farming to do this,” Barnhart said as he took a break from planting. “It’s a lot of work, but if you do like farming, it’s extremely satisfying. I like producing something from fruit that we’re growing. I guess the corporate guys would say we’re vertically integrated.”

The winery has more than three acres of grapes so far, but has room for more, and Barnhart hopes to eventually turn about 20 acres of grapes into wine each year.

The winery will bottle its first vintage in mid-June, and the farm has enough fruit now to make 1,000 cases per year. Barnhart expects the winery itself to open by appointment in August, with regular hours starting in September.

The new main building and tasting room will offer Friday, Saturday and Sunday tastings and wine sales, he said.

Victory View was previously a small dairy farm Barnhart and his wife, Mary, bought in 2002. They planted their first grapes in 2008, the year after Gerry retired from his job as director of fish and wildlife and marine resources for the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Mary retired in July, and while they have lived in the area since about 1980, they were trying to buy property for a winery for a long time, Barnhart said.

Their business venture wouldn’t be possible without relatively recent breakthroughs by grape researchers, primarily at the University of Minnesota. Experts have been able to breed new strains both good for making wine and hardy enough to withstand northern New York weather. They have names like Marquette, LaCrescent, Frontenac, Lacrosse and Marechal Foch, and, according to the Minnesota Grape Growers Association, they can withstand winter extremes of 30 below zero or colder.

The Minnesota grape varieties, along with some bred by Cornell University, will allow Victory View to make both white and red wine varieties — about 250 cases — to start. That’s from one acre of grape production.

The vines Gerry and his brother, Lloyd, planted in mid-May were Frontenac. Once those vines reach maturity, which can take several growing seasons, production will increase.

Barnhart plans to stick with Victory View’s historic theme as he names the wines. He is planning labels such as Lafayette, a red made from the Marechal Foch variety; and Turning Point, a red made from the Marquette grape.

A white wine made from the LaCrescent variety will be called Charlotte Riedesel, after the wife of Friedrich Adolf Riedesel, who commanded German mercenaries and American Indian troops in the Battles of Saratoga.

Barnhart said he was inspired by stories about how well-respected Charlotte Riedesel was among soldiers on both sides of the conflict.

The labels are a work in progress, as each has to be approved by the state.

Barnhart, who is chairman of the Upper Hudson Valley Wine & Grape Association, is quick to point out other success stories in the region’s growing wine industry.

The association counts about a dozen wineries among its members.

They are scattered from Lake George to Ballston Spa, and make up the Upper Hudson Valley Wine Trail, which is hosting its debut event, a wine and cheese tour, June 15 and 16.

Barnhart hopes the cluster of new wineries will attract visitors to the region, while giving area residents a new appreciation for wine and locally produced goods.

Victory View has a Facebook page and plans to launch a website by the end of June, Barnhart said.


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Related to this story

The Upper Hudson Valley Wine Trail is now 12 wineries strong, with others on the way, thanks to advances in the science of growing hardier grapes.

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